Leaders: Go With The Flow

Family Life

I was having coffee with a close friend of mine this week and we started talking about the notion of something we heard about that was very powerful to us.  We were engaged in a conversation about reaching higher levels of achievement in our personal and professional lives with the topic of “What you resist, persist.” I first heard that concept referenced on the Eckert Tolle and Oprah Winfrey webcast.

As I left my friend, I began thinking of that quote and how applicable the meaning of that concept is for leaders.

For instance, when we resist having a conversation with a co-worker , colleague or subordinate over an important issue, the challenge does not go away.  On the contrary, when issues are ignored they simply get bigger.  It’s like the elephant in the room that doesn’t get addressed but everyone knows it’s there.  That elephant got bigger because of the unspoken thoughts and emotions that were swirling around everyone’s heads.  When people can have honest dialogues, emotions are diffused and a general understanding between people can eliminate confusion.

“We sometimes get so used to the silent elephant amongst us that we make him our family pet.” ~Kevin Meyers

salmonA leader may resist taking an action they know needs to be taken, hoping that something miraculous will save them from the reaction they are anticipating.

Yet, the problem does not go away, it only takes on new dimensions and often becomes tougher to solve.

Imagine, being caught in the current of the river and trying to fight against it to go the other way. Odds are that an unwelcome ending is awaiting you.

The energy required to fight the current is far greater than when we go with the flow of the water.

Resistance is part of nature, so when leaders learn to work with this powerful force, new beginnings and opportunities arise.   For instance, change initiatives are often met with opposition from many levels.  Yet, it is this resistance, that if understood, can make strategies stronger and create alliances and breakthroughs.

Strength From Resistance

Think about how many people go to a gym and lift weights to improve their health and physique. The best results stem from a program involving resistance training to make them stronger and fit.   Imagine leaders taking the same approach in business.  Instead of shying away – they embraced and actually looked for potential challenges.

When faced with resistance, a great technique to try to improve your leadership effectiveness is the STOP tool that  Timothy Galloway talked about in his book the Inner Game of Work.

S = Step back from action and emotion

TThink about what’s most important at this moment

O = Organize your thoughts to create coherence

P = Proceed when purpose and next steps are clear

When we are able to stop and focus on what’s important at that moment we gain perspective on the situation and can recognize and acknowledge the conflict.  Just being aware of resistance minimizes its impact and gives us the ability to look at what’s happening around us without judgment or fear, allowing people to open up and share what’s on their minds.  With resistance comes inaction and open dialogue creates movement.

What are you resisting?  What is temporarily stalled in your organization?  What conversations are you potentially avoiding? I’d love to hear what is working for you.

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Robin Wilson

Image Sources: 12Stone.com, pluralsight.com

One response to “Leaders: Go With The Flow

  1. A very thoughtful and compelling post, Robin. A few years ago, as I led a major restructuring, I learned that I had to walk at my fear (and, believe me, there was a lot of it), or the things I was most afraid of would fester and grow. When I did that, and when I approached the conversations openly and with genuine curiosity, it was never as bad as I had made it out to be. And, what was so beautiful about it was that my staff and stakeholders at some level felt the change in me and future conversations went far more smoothly. Talk about being in the flow….

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